Yeah, I know I wrote that Harold Buchanan’s Flashpoint: South China Sea (GMT Games, 2022) is a good game but not a great tool for learning about the issues of the day. Still, it’s a short-play game that at least looks the theme. I had hemmed and hawed about taking the game to the office for some “office-al” gaming. Putting my reservations about the game aside, I took it in.
Thankfully, the footprint for Flashpoint: South China Sea is fairly small so I was able to set aside a part of my desk to set up the game. In the course of a week I “played” three solo games during lunch and walked several colleagues through a few turns on the other days. With a bit of some rules familiarity, I was able to easily complete the tree campaign turn game within a lunch hour.
I have said from the beginning that Flashpoint: South China Sea is a well-designed game. I am not particularly a card driven game (CDG) fanatic but I must admit that the game engine hums along nicely in this game. Not only does the game play well, but it actually is quite easy to teach.
Strategy – Don’t Let the Pooh Win
With less than a dozen games of Flashpoint: South China Sea under my “belt and road,” far be it from me to offer advice on gameplay strategy or call a game unbalanced. That said, I note that all three of my solo plays ended in a PRC victory. Of the three games, twice I played the U.S. side against the Chinese Bot. Those games were relatively close with the PRC side winning by +2 the first game and +6 the second game. The third solo game I played the PRC against the U.S. Bot. I enjoyed this game because I ended up at +10!
While my assessment that Flashpoint: South China Sea actually offers little insight into the very real and serious political, economic, and military issues surrounding the region remains unchanged, I must admit the game looks good on the table. I had more than a few folk just walk into my office to see the game. I was often able to explain what the game was and how it played. If nothing else, the nice table presence and refined rules made it easier for “non-gamers” to see themselves playing. Maybe that is the real “role” of Flashpoint: South China Sea—to be a good-will boardgame ambassador and entice new players into hobby gaming.
Feature image by RMN